Alabama Police Say They Were Justified In Tasering Deaf Man

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Officers who used pepper spray and a Taser to remove a man from a store bathroom found out only later he was deaf and mentally disabled and didn't understand they wanted him to open the door, police said Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Mobile Police Department said the officers' actions were justified because the man was armed with a potential weapon - an umbrella.

But relatives of Antonio Love, 37, have asked for a formal investigation and said they plan to sue both the police and the store.

"I want justice," Love's mother, Phyllis Love, said Tuesday.

The woman said her son hears only faintly, has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and didn't realize that it was the police who were trying enter the bathroom.

"He thought the devil was out there trying to get in to get him," she said.

Antonio Love, in a written statement and in a television interview given in sign language about the confrontation, said he had a badly upset stomach last Friday and went into a Dollar General store to use the restroom.

Police spokesman Christopher Levy said Tuesday store workers called officers complaining that a man had been in the bathroom for more than an hour with the door locked. Officers knocked on the door and identified themselves, but the person didn't respond.

Officers used a tire iron to open the door, but the man pushed back to keep it shut. Officers saw the umbrella and sprayed pepper spray through a crack trying to subdue the man, Levy said. They shot the man with a Taser when they finally got inside, he said.

Officers didn't realize Love was deaf or had mental problems until he showed them a card he carries in his wallet, Levy said. He was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, but officers released him and took him home after a magistrate refused to issue a warrant.

Levy said officers were justified in using force against Love since he had an umbrella.

"The officers really worked within the limits of our level-of-force policy," he said. "We had no information about who this guy was."

Phyllis Love said her son, who has worked in the garden department at a Lowe's store for several years, was scared when he realized someone was trying to get into the bathroom with him. He put water on his face and on the floor after being hit with pepper spray, she said.

"He didn't know it was a policeman until they busted the door in on him," she said. "He had a knot on his head from where it hit him."

Levy said police wish the confrontation had never occurred. The internal investigation will include a review of Love's complaints that officers laughed at him after realizing he was deaf, he said.

"We'll make whatever efforts we can to resolve this situation, hopefully so this man will be able to trust police in the future so we can help him. Obviously, it's going to be a rough road," he said.

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  • by Chris Location: greenville on Jul 31, 2009 at 02:45 PM
    To-Stop the madness... WWJD?? Jesus would have healed him of his affliction, then there wouldn't be a story to speak of. If it was one of my family members, somebody...another family member, myself, or a paid nursemaid would be watching him keeping him safe and supervised. If I had a 10 yr old with a growth spurt that made him look the size of an adult,I wouldn't let them venture places by themselves either.
  • by Stop the maddness on Jul 31, 2009 at 12:41 PM
    do u people hear yourselves......this is crazy the whole situation is crazy. there should have been a better way to deal with this. and yes i agree why was this gentlemen left alone??? reguardless of his mental state things should have been handled differently. how about if it was u or one or your relatives?? people these days are not empathetic and sympathetic to other people and that is so sad. WWJD?
  • by Wanda Location: Kenansville on Jul 29, 2009 at 12:31 PM
    The person was deaf not mute. He should've used the universal hand single "stop" and "down." Hehehehehee
  • by Chris Location: greenville on Jul 28, 2009 at 11:27 PM
    omg , someone with the mental capacity of a 10 year old can hold a job? And he is allowed to function in normal society alone? He can take responsibility for anything that happens, or be under constant supervision.
  • by C on Jul 28, 2009 at 05:40 PM
    Scott: How easy it is to criticize the police with such a blanket statement from the safety of your keyboard [2:06 PM]. Have you met,and spent time with,every police officer in this country? I'm guessing the answer is "no". So,how can you accuse all officers of being "lazy and choosing the easy route"? Another thing:Try letting someone whack you as hard as they can with an umbrella. I suspect that after that,you'll have a healthy respect for improvised impact weapons. Also: I'm willing to bet that you have never worked in law enforcement. If such is the case,lots of departments out there are hiring. Since you obviously already know how police should do their jobs,I'm sure you can skip the academy and get hired pretty quickly. However,if you've never worn a badge and gun for a living,and are unwilling to give it a try..well,you're entitled to your opinion,but the sheep have no business telling the sheepdogs how to go about protecting them.
  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Jul 28, 2009 at 03:53 PM
    Years ago I bought into a Friday night dance hall, two guys started a fight in the bath room, I locked the door, but people wanted me to stop the fight, I ask them which one would like to go in and stop the fight, guess what? No takers.
  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Jul 28, 2009 at 03:46 PM
    Mom's going hunting for a lawyer and $$$$.
  • by to Scott on Jul 28, 2009 at 01:18 PM
    You are right, it would have been better for them to take the hard route and drag him out and hit him with the batons and fists instead of using their Taser.
  • by Lucky Location: Gville on Jul 28, 2009 at 12:34 PM
    I agree with Anonymous, why was this guy left alone unattended...
  • by Anonymous on Jul 28, 2009 at 11:40 AM
    An umbrella, I am surprised they did not just shoot him. I am sure they were in fear for their lives, with him behind a locked door with an umbrella. Also agree that someone with that low a mental capacity should not be let out alone unattended. You don't let 10 year old children out alone do you?
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